Tessie Prevost, Symbol of Southern School Desegregation, Dies at Age 69

Tessie Prevost, Symbol of Southern School Desegregation, Dies at Age 69

NEW ORLEANS — Tessie Prevost, an influential figure in the desegregation of schools in the Deep South, has died at age 69.

She was one of the first three Black girls to enroll in previously all-white public schools in New Orleans under federal guidance. Reporting her passing, the Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate remembers her courage during these significant historical moments.

Born on November 5, 1954, Prevost, along with Leona Tate and Gail Etienne, became pioneers in 1960 when they entered McDonogh 19 Elementary School, breaking racial barriers there.

In a 2010 interview with NPR, Prevost recalled the hostility they faced as children walking into the school surrounded by federal troops. They were confined to the school building during their entire first year.

At a 2011 event, Prevost and her two peers remembered their struggles during a panel discussion. Their former school is now preserved as The Tate, Etienne and Prevost (TEP) Center and a Civil Rights museum under renovation.

When the girls moved to T.J. Semmes, another all-white school, they continued to face difficulties. Notably, their courage was celebrated at a New Orleans library event held in their honor.

City Council President Helena Moreno reflected on the impact of the deseg

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